I spent eight years of my life in a snowy wasteland myself. It's called Wisconsin. I get why anyone would be driven to kill.
Revenge Is A Dish Best Served Neeson… No, I Will Not Take That Back.
Before I really get into my critique of Cold Pursuit, I want to say that I have not seen the original Norwegian film Kraftidioten / In Order of Disappearance, which was also directed by Hans Petter Moland. So anyone looking for comparisons between the remake vs. the original will not be finding those here. This review is coming from the fresh eyes of someone with no prior knowledge of its source material or even the director’s past filmography. However, coming out of the film, I must also say that I was very pleasantly surprised by this particularly humorous dark comedy-thriller. Not what I would call perfect, but I had a lot of fun with Cold Pursuit. It may hold a number of similarities to other Liam Neeson revenge flicks, but its execution in tone I thought made it stand out more so than other Neeson action films that only tried replicating the Taken formula.
They Messed with Liam Neeson’s Family… Again.
Nels Coxman (Liam Neeson) is a snowplow driver living in the desolate snowy lands of a small town below the Rocky Mountains, when his son is murdered he seeks vengeance against the drug dealers that took his son’s life. From there a darkly comedic revenge thriller ensues. I feel that is important to know going into Cold Pursuit that this takes a slightly funnier approach to its tone instead of being a straight forward action-thriller. From a few brief glimpses of what the reception is for this film, it seems that people are mostly chalking this up as nothing more than another Taken clone, which I believe to be an unfair assessment. Yes, there is plenty you can compare the two films with; it is a film where criminals have messed with Neeson’s family and he takes it upon himself to take action. That’s pretty much where the similarities end because the tone, like I said, makes this film its own thing, bringing in a unique flavor not yet seen with other Liam Neeson action flicks. This really is a dark comedy with small action beats sprinkled throughout. Anyone who reads that and isn’t onboard immediately should probably steer clear as the tone may only confuse you.
The direction, I felt, was fairly smart taking this approach to the film; creating some purposefully awkward scenes that most films would have cut completely out while Cold Pursuit actually lingers on for so long it becomes rather funny. For instance, when Coxman (Neeson) and his wife (Laura Dern) come into the morgue to identify the body of their son, the scene opens with the coroner rising the body up on this platform that is seemingly pressure based, so the process of getting the platform all the way up continues for such an excessively long time as everyone in the room simply has to wait in silence until it finally finishes; just so the grieving parents may witness their dead son for that much longer. Describing it doesn’t do the scene justice, but it held on this moment for such a ridiculous amount of time that it made me chuckle and intentionally so. Giving me a decent idea of what was instore; which was a movie that wanted to add darkly quirky moments of comedy that were subtle, but effective. Which was a style that I really appreciated about the movie. There are also other touches to the humor involving title cards of every person that dies throughout the narrative, which had a fantastic payoff in the film’s third act. A scene involving a man that Neeson believes he choked to death, wakes back up only for Neeson to choke him to death again. There’s also some pretty silly background sight gags involving a severed head that got a good laugh out of me. And the final kill had me in stitches quite a bit. That is to name a few of the many darkly humorous touches this film makes.
The villains are also pretty great to watch, especially the leader of the drug dealers who ordered Coxman’s son to be killed, Tevor ‘Viking’ Calcote played hilariously by Tom Bateman. Bateman supplies such an over-the-top performance as the ‘big bad’ that I was grinning ear to ear every time he popped up on screen. This man is such a detestable, vile, obnoxious, misogynistic, racist, pompous asshole that he is quite literally a grammar Nazi that I couldn’t help but laugh at the absurd things that his character would get angry about. This is the type of guy that has an argument with his ex-wife to demand that she feeds their son the same meal three times a day, every single day for the rest of his life or else he’d take her to court, then minutes later have a freak-out over the fact that someone packed a cookie into his son’s lunch box. This man’s idea of teaching his son ‘everything he needs to know’ by saying Lord of the Flies has all the answers he will ever need. It was such an odd and ‘in your face’ character, but because he was played so brilliantly by Bateman, I was entertained in every single one of his scenes. Even Calcote’s ex-wife held her own against him in some fairly satisfying ways that I thought was a pretty cool move to take with a character that felt familiar in certain aspects. Although I will say that one of my favorite lines in the whole film has to come from one of the opposing gang members within a Native American crime syndicate as he is trying to intimidate a front-desk concierge with a line that felt pretty perfect.
In terms of the filmmaking quality seen here, this is actually rather stylish with several wide shots of what appears to be of a winter wasteland. The setting of this film is actually quite stunning and added to the desolate and damn near snowy apocalyptic look present here. The landscape photography used here is well utilized in the film and made me feel like I was lost in the middle of a snowy hell. I thought that there was some real artistry put into the cinematography of Cold Pursuit, which also aided in providing its own personality. And no, I didn’t once think about The Grey. So stop it, ya smartasses.
Editing wise, I do think that there are one or two subplot threads that probably could have been trimmed or even cut out entirely. Overall, the screenplay does feel like it naturally evolves in unraveling the story with its characters and usually if there is ever the rare scene that would drag somewhat, soon after it would interject something that contained more entertainment value. The acting on everyone’s part was also solid in the film, even quite a few of the smaller supporting characters had their time to shine here and there.
Not Greatness, But I Don’t Care.
I’m not delving too deeply into Cold Pursuit’s story as I feel that it is worth checking out and don’t want to spoil too much for anyone, but I will say that the film isn’t without its flaws. There are a select few characters, one specifically, that basically vanish from the movie entirely without much reason as to why they were there to begin with. There are a pair of police partners that really don’t add much to the overall story, not even providing our lead with any sort of tension, so they came across as a bit of a time waster. There is a whole section where it feels like Neeson himself kind of takes a backseat while the story among the gangsters unfolds without him. And while I really liked Neeson’s performance, I will say that I was a bit more entertained by the villains as I thought they overshadowed him. Only slightly though. I also do wish that there was a bit more action as there were brief instances that the narrative would drag for me a little. However, with all that said, I was still consistently entertained through most of the runtime.
Even with certain aspects I may not have been as interested in when compared to others, I still was having a fun time because the whole cast performed terrifically with dialog that does a fantastic job at keeping the viewer’s attention. Plus every so often there would be an oddly dark moment that would get another chuckle out of me, and that is something I admired immensely about the film. I really don’t think that it is fair to call Cold Pursuit simply another Taken retread when really it makes the premise its own here with the black comedy interwoven. Plus the story itself really isn’t all that similar to the Taken films aside from it being criminals that piss off Neeson because they messed with his family, that’s really about it. This isn’t a constant chase film with extraordinary fight sequences, this keeps things rather grounded. Even the humor of the film never feels tonally separated from what would happen in reality with situations like this, a touch that I really liked. There’s never a moment where it turns into a cartoon, maybe outside of the main villain being so over-the-top in his performance, but the dark comedy that came from the morgue scene and others always came across as the stuff that would happen in our own reality that the average revenge film would cut out, but this film makes the effort to leave in. These moments brought me joy in how funny they subtly clash inside of a revenge-thriller. So, long story short, I recommend Cold Pursuit. Don’t expect a masterpiece, nor your average straight forward Neeson ass kicking flick either. This is a quirkily grounded, slow-burning revenge thriller that takes a subtle and minimal approach to its humor and action. Think less Taken and more Fargo. If that is something you can accept then have at it, but if that doesn’t sound appealing to you then I say steer clear.
Of All the Neeson Ass-Kicking...
That’s All Folks…
If you have read this far into my review, I appreciate you! I hope that you enjoyed my thoughts and I would love to hear yours about the film as well, so just comment down below! Also, if you liked my review of Cold Pursuit, then please do me a little favor and share this article around the social media world as it helps me out a bunch and I would be forever grateful! Thank you so much for reading and have a great day!
© 2019 John Plocar